Autism Watch: 2007

That Gave Me a Sickness, Mom

Posted on: May 30, 2008

You poor thing! You don’t have to finish that. I don’t want you to have a sickness, by all means throw the rest away…after you stop gagging.

You’d have thought it was brussel sprouts. What was it? A chocolate covered donut.

My son’s feeding issues have returned with a vengeance. Years ago, he ate 8-10 things without complaint. Then it increased, and he ate much better, though still with sensory issues — he’d gag easily, as textures really bug him, smells would bother him, and he was very limited in what tastes he wanted. Chicken nuggets have lasted throughout the years, and pizza’s a favorite the last year or so. But lately, he’s back to only wanting pancakes for breakfast, a turkey sandwich (no cheese, just mustard) for lunch, along with a selection of several snacks (like certain crackers, grapes, homemade cookies) and every dinner he wants chicken nuggets or pizza. Everything beyond that is a battle. He gags, wretches, whines, complains and will run and hide if made to eat anything else. Part of it appears to be the food, and part appears to be just the act of sitting still.

So, I didn’t say a word when the donut went in the trash, and I happily heated up his pancakes knowing he’d at least have a full tummy. But, in the end, what to do? Are food issues a problem with your child? I’m open to any/all ideas on increasing my son’s interest in food and getting beyond some of these sensory issues.

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3 Responses to "That Gave Me a Sickness, Mom"

Food has been our biggest struggle, and every therapist we’ve seen has said they’ve never seen any kid as challenged as C when it comes to food. From the time he would vomit when we’d simply open the fridge, it has been one problem after another. We’ve done YEARS of feeding therapy, based in a sensory method developed by a behavioral psychologist and an OT. It was slow, but it helped. It involved making food fun, putting a danger food ON the table, moving it closer, eventually getting it on his plate, having him touch it, play with it, make crafts with it. Then they would work on getting him to pick it up, touch his body with it (more value the closer it gets to his face), kiss it, lick it, put it in the mouth and spit it out, eventually eat it. Dipping in ANYTHING – no matter how weird – to make it acceptable. Constant encouragement, happiness, and lots of clapping with any success whatsoever (even if it was just touching the food). The key is letting him do and not doing to him, if that makes sense.

Now we’ve blended that with ABA-like rewards, and I’ll yak with him the entire time he’s chewing to distract him and suppress the gag. I’ll hit the table with an open palm and screech that he shouldn’t eat that food (he loves to be contrary, so this one really works), laughing all the way. Anything to distract him. I’ve also coupled that with a reward – our ABA therapist once said to “save the Disneyland for something really big,” and we realized food was really big. So every time he tried a new food and actually ate it, we’d give him a piece to his train set. He LOVED that. It was cheaper than feeding therapy, and it worked a heck of a lot faster. 🙂

Since then we’ve backed off the really big rewards, but still have “new food Wednesdays and Sundays,” where he knows he’ll be trying something. It doesn’t always stick, but at least he tries. Often I’ll take him to the grocery store and let him pick something. He loves doing this.

I also try to talk about how the new food will feel or taste. I try to compare it to things he already eats and say “it will be chewier than grapes (this is when we were trying cherry tomatoes the other day), but will feel the same in your mouth. It will taste a little like ketchup.”

And the one final thing is our FT said if he’s eating the same things every day, at least try to put a little variance in it every day. C still eats baby food jars, so I try to put a tiny bit of spice or something in it to change the taste or texture just a tiny bit each time. And pancakes are a great place to hide blended up things (broccoli with rice milk) that can add some vitamin value without being noticed – even by the most difficult eater, which C is too!

Have you tried feeding therapy? I know your son seems old for it, but it can really help, especially when you’re at a brick wall like you are. You can’t just go for a speech therapist who thinks they know a little about feeding (they generally don’t), you really have to go for a specialist. I think I remember where you are, and can’t imagine there’s not one somewhere halfway near you to try. Our program was developed by a therapist in Colorado who is one of the leading in the field. She has trained FTs all over the country, and each time we move we are able to track down someone who has her training.

It’s tough – I think one of the toughest and least understood issues with autism. I read somewhere that feeding issues are now the earliest indicator of autism in infants/toddlers. Interesting!

Wow. Sounds like my son. Every night at supper time, I ask him if he wants chicken nuggets or pizza, because I know those are the only options. Other than that, he eats only bread, cheese, grapes, bananas, oatmeal and strawberries. Oh, and milk and apple juice. That’s his diet. You are not alone in this.

My son doesn’t have autism, only SPD/SID. Not sure if that matters to you…

My daughter has SPD and was a terrible eater for years. Mostly cause she just didn’t care about food-it just wasn’t on her radar. But some of it was texture/smell related. She did OT for years and they worked on this with her, using special brushes and stuff in her mouth or vibrating toothbrushes. What helped the most though was her starting school. Maybe peer pressure was the break through she needed…
My son doesn’t have SPD, but is very sensitive to foods-gags and all. We have resorted to bribery at times. I’m sure it’s a no no, but for pete’s sake, what kid doesn’t eat pb & j? That’s just weird.
Anyway, he starts kindie in the fall-maybe peer pressure will get to him too.
No advice here, just sympathy. 😉

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